Join the ABA at The Biggest Week 2012!
by Jeff Gordon
Having been a resident of the Front Range for just a little more than a year, people frequently ask me if I miss, "back home," in my case, Delaware. And while Liz and I are thrilled to be living in Colorado, there are some things we do miss. My (partial) list includes family and old friends, of course, but also the smell of the salt marsh, choruses of frogs, crab cakes, Tastykakes, lady-slippers, sweet gum, and luna moths.
And warblers. God, do I miss warblers.
It's true, the West does have warblers. But kind of in the same way the East has mountains. Some lovely ones, for sure, but there's little question which way to head if you have the choice.
And if you want to see a lot of warblers close, there's no place or time that beats Northwest Ohio in early May.
So I'm thrilled to say that I just bought plane tickets for Liz and me that will whisk us to the Motor City on the second day of May. From there, we'll head south and east into the Buckeye State to join up with the grandest celebration of warblers and other spring migrant birds that there is: The Biggest Week in American Birding.
I didn't make it to the Biggest Week (or BWAB for short) last year, but I was there for its premier in 2010. It's an extraordinary event in many ways.
The birds are extraordinarily beautiful and interesting:
You get to see these birds extraordinarily close up:
BBWA @ BWAB 2010 by Jeffrey A. Gordon
And you get to experience being part of an extraordinary gathering of people who are all focussed on enjoying and sharing these wonderful views of these amazing birds:
Birders on Boardwalk @ BWAB 2010 II by Jeffrey A. Gordon
I'd like to take a moment and address a concern that many people have about The Biggest Week: crowds. Nearly every birder would look at the first two images above and say, "Wow, I'd love to be standing where that photographer was and see that same view." But the bottom two images may provoke a more mixed reaction. A lot of us just don't like crowds.
Two things: 1. It's not crowded everywhere. Like so many things, all you have to do is get a teeny bit off the most beaten path and you'll have plenty of space. And it's easy to find other spots. For the $25 registration fee, you get access to a full 10 days of guided morning and afternoon field trip opportunities at Magee Marsh and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (and lots of discounts at local establishments if you show your Biggest Week name tag). Look here for daily guided walks info. Some of these walks will show you lesser know sites, and all of them are led by folks who can give you pointers on where to go.
Here's point 2. The crowds are a big reason that you SHOULD go. Everyone ought to experience some of the energy and excitement of being part of that throng on the Magee Marsh boardwalk. There's something very empowering and hopeful about so many people packed in all looking at birds and having a ball. Would I want to bird under those conditions every day? Of course not. But wow, is it great to see a crowd trying to help each other get on and understand the identification of a Gray-cheeked Thrush. It's a stark constrast to some of the sorry consumer culture spectacles we've seen of people pepper-spraying or literally trampling each other to get Black Friday "bargains."
When you are in a birding crowd at BWAB, it's like being at a friendly concert. It's just a great feeling to be part of it. And it offers us a great opportunity to do a little service, too.
Many of the folks who show up at Magee aren't really keyed into birding yet. They may have come because they read an item in the local paper or saw something on the news. They may have no idea that something called The Biggest Week is even going on. Or that there's something called the American Birding Association.
So there's an unparalelled chance to help people get turned on to the greatest hobby there is. Think of it: warblers, tangers, orioles...just a few feet away. It's just the best for getting people to see the wonder and excitement of birds.
And of course, you're likely to run into a lot of birders you know, or have been wanting to meet. I can't even begin to describe the range of activities and events that will be occurring. The web site does a great job of that. Or, if you need a more arcane question answered, call or e-mail the folks at Black Swamp Bird Observatory for help.
For all the reasons above and for many more, I'm proud and excited to have the ABA as a major sponsor of this year's Biggest Week.
Liz and I will be at the Biggest Week from its kickoff on May 4th, 2012 until Wednesday, May 9th. The event runs until Sunday, May 13th. We'll be running around trying to soak up as much of the experience as we can. If you'd like to meet up while we're there, you can reach me through Facebook or Twitter or e-mail (jgordon AT aba.org). We'd love to see you and share a few birds.
Come on out to Ohio in May. It'll be a blast. And maybe, just maybe, we'll get enough of a warbler fix to last us a while.